Do you have a cat who scratches furniture? If the answer is yes, then you need to read this article! As you may know, declawing is an elective (chosen) procedure. Many people chose declawing as a method of permanently stopping their cats from being able to scratch. Scratching is a normal behaviour for cats, but it can sometimes lead to fairly destructive behaviour. If you are considering declawing, try to learn as much as you can about what this procedure entails first. As well, make sure you take a look at all of the alternatives beforehand.
It is natural for cats to scratch; they do this in order to mark territory as well as to keep their claws well conditioned. But, if scratching is excessive or prolonged, you may start considering a declaw. But before taking the big step, it is important to consider alternatives first; declawing shouldn’t be used as a preventive for a behavioral issue that can be dealt with in other ways.
Alternatives to declawing:
Since scratching is a natural behaviour, you might try teaching your cat a new set of rules! If you give her a chance, you will most likely be happy with the results!
Create an Alternative Scratch Area:
First off, you should start with providing a scratching alternative located within close proximity of the problem area. The cat should be praised if her attentions are refocused on the scratching alternative and away from the problem area (ex: she begins to use the scratching post and not the couch).
The scratching alternative should be attractive to the cat. Some tips:
-Add catnip or treats to the area near the scratch post or on the scratch area itself.
-Cat trees with high perches are a great choice; cats feel more comfortable being above.
-Cats enjoy scratching materials with a vertical drag to them, carpet and ‘sisal’ (natural rope type cover) are also great scratch materials for your cat
-Create positive reinforcement :Praise and play with your cat in this scratch area, especially if they are using it!
Deter Your Cat From the Problem Area:
At the same time as offering an alternative scratch zone, try to make the ‘problem area’ look unattractive.
-You can do this by using sticky deterrents, such as: double sided or looped tape, or by covering the item with balloons, plastic or foil wrap.
-You can spray repellants on the item by using spray on antiperspirants or commercial cat repellent sprays.
– If you do happen to catch your cat in the act, you can also try using a spray bottle/water gun or shaking a can of rocks in order to frighten them away.* It is important that the cat not associate this noise or water spray with you, if they do, they will simply learn not to scratch in your presence.
Keeping Nails Short!
While retraining your cat, you can help to minimize damage by trimming your cat’s nails frequently. It is easiest to get your cat used of this procedure as a kitten, but adult cats can learn to tolerate it as well.
Remember to be patient and start slowly. Rewarding your cat with praise and treats can help too! If unsure how to trim your cats nails, please see the staff of the Lansdowne Animal hospital for a demonstration. The non-pigmented nails of the cat makes it extra easy!
A newer method to help with scratching, is to use a product called ‘Soft Paws’. Soft paws are tiny nail caps which are glued into place over the cat’s claws. This creates a blunt nail tip which isn’t sharp enough to cause damage. Many owners become accustomed to placing these caps on at home and they can be ordered in a variety of colours and sizes!
*However easy this product may seem, it does require regular maintenance. Over time (usually within a few weeks) you will need to start replacing the caps.
Adopt a Declawed Cat!
If you are thinking of adopting a new kitten/cat and have zero tolerance for scratching, it might be best to consider adopting an already declawed cat. Visit a local shelter and you are sure to find at least one cat who has already been declawed and in need of a good home.
If you’ve tried out the alternatives but still find your cat’s scratching difficult to manage, you may decide to go ahead with the declaw surgery.
The Declaw Procedure/After Care
This surgery usually involves the removal of the entire third digit, the bone in which the nail grows from. This procedure will provide a o% chance of the nail growing back.
Once the surgery is complete you can expect your cat to stay at the vet clinic for a few nights. The first night your cat will usually have bandages placed on the paws, they can then be remove; the paws will be carefully monitored for bleeding by the veterinary staff.
When your cat does return home there may be a bit of blood spotting from the paws, this can be normal in small quantities; you need to contact your vet if it is continuous or excessive.
Another problem that you will need to look out for is infection of the surgical site. Signs of infection after a declaw surgery, include: pain, limping, loss of appetite, possible fever and lethargy. If you notice these signs, make sure you call your vet or bring them into the clinic as soon as possible.
Furthermore, you will need to be careful with the type of cat litter that you provide for your newly declawed cat. Shredded paper is a great substitute to use for the first 1.5 weeks or so. Litter pellets are also a good choice, as they are not dusty or able to enter the incisions and cause infection.
Please also remember that since this is a surgery, your cat will also be sent home with some sort of pain medication for the first few days to make them a bit more comfortable. Many vets will use a patch which contains pain medications in it. This type of pain medication provides relief 24/7 and without the extra hassle of pilling!
If your loveable feline companion’s favorite past time includes scratching your furniture, make sure you know your alternatives before deciding to declaw! Scratching is natural for cats, but can sometimes be curbed through training or other alternatives. If these alternatives just don’t seem to be working for you, be sure you fully understand the declaw process before proceeding.
If you have more questions about destructive behaviour in cats or on declaw alternatives, feel free to contact us at anytime (613)730-2460.